In his “groundbreaking measure” to end poverty, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced Rs. 72,000 annually to families belonging to poorest of the poor category, if voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing the press, Rahul Gandhi in Delhi claimed, “Five crore families and 25 crore people will directly benefit from the scheme,” adding, “The Congress guarantees that 20 percent families belonging to poorest of the poor category in India will be given Rs. 72,000 each annually.”
Rahul termed it a “historic day” as his party had launched its final assault on poverty on the day and said, “The final assault on poverty has begun. We will wipe out poverty from the country.”
Today is a historic day..
It is on this day that the Congress party launched its final assault on poverty.
5 Crore of the poorest families in India, will receive Rs. 72,000 Per Year#NyayForIndia is our dream & our pledge.
The time for change has come.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 25, 2019
The Congress chief alleged PM Modi of giving money to the rich and not the poor. He said that the scheme is part of Congress’ plan to ensure minimum income guarantee to every person in the country.
Mr. Gandhi called it a “fiscally prudent” scheme that would “eliminate poverty”. But the governing BJP quickly criticized pointing out that India’s poor were receiving more support under existing schemes.
“If you are sure about your defeat, you can promise [the] moon,” party general secretary Ram Madhav tweeted.
Congress had revealed a minimum income policy would be part of its election manifesto in January but had not released details until Monday.
Mr. Gandhi said 50 million families – or 250 million people – would directly benefit.
“The final assault on poverty has begun. We will wipe out poverty from the country,” he said, adding that Congress had been advised by “many economists”. The scheme if implemented will cost Rs 4160 Billion.
There are strong rumors that French economist Thomas Piketty, noted for his work on income inequality, is the brain behind the scheme and advising Congress.
There has been much debate over whether India can introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI) – a regular cash payment from the state for all or most citizens without any conditions.
In 2017, the Indian government’s economic survey suggested that a scheme benefitting 75% of the population could significantly reduce poverty. Such schemes have been trialed at small-scale all over the world, including in Finland, Kenya, and the Netherlands.
The Congress policy, while not a UBI, is seen as a limited version of such a scheme.
The announcement is seen as a bid to prop up an electoral fortune of the Grand Old Party which has been struggling with a bitter power struggle with the BJP.